Address by Mr. Shoayb Casoo, Minister Plenipotentiary of the South African Embassy in Paris, on behalf of Her Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Nomasonto Sibanda-Thusi, to the 204th Commemoration of Toussaint Louverture: Saturday, 7 April 2007, Pontarlier
Excellencies, Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates
Delegates from Haiti and Switzerland
Members of the Organising Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to convey the greetings of Ambassador Sibanda-Thusi, who is unable to be here today. The Ambassador wishes you well and expressed her support for this noble initiative.
Thank you very much for allowing us this opportunity to commemorate with you the life of this remarkable son of the oppressed, of Haiti, of Africa and indeed of the entire mankind.
We want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the organizing committee for their tireless efforts in preserving the story and message of Toussaint Louverture. As we walked through ‘The Fortress of Joux’ one is reminded of the other fortress on Robbin Island that held Nelson Mandela and many of our other heroes in prison for so many years.
We are simultaneously humbled and inspired by the universal message that his life has come to symbolize a message of courage and belief, and of hope and firmness of conviction that justice and freedom are inevitable and inalienable rights of all mankind. It is a message for all times that no people, no nation and no continent shall ever accept to be subjugated.
In his own words to his son he is reported to have said:
“In overthrowing me, only the trunk of the tree of negro liberty has been cut down; its branches will shoot up again, for its roots are numerous and deep”.
Some one hundred and fifty years later, on the African continent still riddled by colonial rule, the first shoots of this tree of liberty began to sprout. For in 1956, Ghana became the first nation on the African continent to become independent from colonial rule. And true to the spirit of Toussaint Louverture, another great son of Africa, Kwame Nkrunah, proclaimed that the tree of liberty will not cease to grow until the entire continent is free. And so, one sprout after another, the tree began to grow until April 1994, when South Africa, with the support of all the African Nations, France and many friends all over the world, defeated the scourge of apartheid. We also take this opportunity to acknowledge this fiftieth anniversary of freedom of Ghana.
Accordingly, as we gather here today to commemorate the heroic life of Toussaint Louverture and the birth of French democracy and values of liberte, fraternite and egalite we also commemorate the realization of Toussaint’s prophesy of a free Africa, and a world free of slavery, and recommit ourselves to the elimination of all forms of oppression and unfair discrimination.
We recall the Declaration of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in SA in 2001, in which the nations of the world pronounced that:
“…slavery and the slave trade …were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of their victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so…”.
The conference furthermore affirmed that “the global fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances and all their abhorrent and evolving forms and manifestations is a matter of priority for the international community”.
As we meet here today, we are mindful of the many challenges facing the African people and the developing world. We assert that the primary challenge facing the world today is to prioritise the special needs of Africa. We must recognize this as the most urgent global priority confronting humanity in this century.
In the words of President Mbeki, as he addressed the Bicentenary of the Independence of Haiti in January 2003, he said:
“These are challenges we must urgently overcome. Together we have a duty to join hands in mutual beneficial solidarity, to work in partnership to defeat poverty, underdevelopment, conflict and instability.
For far too long have Africans been incapacitated by the debilitating scourge of poverty.
For far too long have the unbroken cries of the African child failed to sooth the pangs of hunger”.
We are mindful of the many challenges confronting us as Africans, on the continent and elsewhere. We assert that it is only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future based on our common humanity, and all its diversity, that we can guarantee our own futures, the futures of our children and the future of our planet.
We must choose the path to peace, hope and solidarity, committed to addressing the social and economic injustices of the world.
To this end we call upon all nations of the world to work together in a real partnership with Africa and the developing world to bring the promise of a better life for all closer. In much the same way as Toussaint Louverture found solidarity for his own struggle against slavery and racial discrimination with the people of France, so too can we find solidarity today with all the People of France and Europe, with Haiti and South Africa and Africa, and with all the peoples and nations of the world to proclaim that the fight against poverty and underdevelopment is simultaneously a fight against oppression, a fight against injustice and a fight for a better world.
SA, as a country committed to these principles, we are firm in the view that the means and resources to create a better world for all are available. To Toussaint Louverture we say: the ideals for which you lived for and the ideals for which you died, live today, in each one of us, determined to end all forms of slavery, injustice, racism, sexism, discrimination and all related intolerances.
The struggle continues…
I thank you.